Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

A Dollar for a Hug

Posted: June 26, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, Weird
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

vending machine

Jim saved his files. “Two a.m.? When the hell did it get that late?” Nine hours after when he should have gone home, that was when. But the program review was at noon, and their biggest customer wouldn’t understand if the review wasn’t ready.

Jim rubbed his face. He couldn’t think. He needed to clear his head. He walked down the half-lit hall to the water fountain. They shut off most of the lights after seven. He splashed cold water on his face and rubbed it in his hair.

He needed one more pick-me-up to keep going. Jim sighed. It was becoming a bad habit, but it always worked. He checked his wallet for dollar bills. He had one, only one, and a wrinkled one at that.

Jim walked up to the hug vending machine. Inside, an elderly man wearing a flannel shirt sat reading a newspaper in an easy chair. He looked more comfortable than anyone had a right to be at two o’clock in the morning. The man smiled at Jim as he walked over, smoothing out a dollar bill.

“Hello, Jim. Back again?” the man asked.

“Coming here is worse than buying Doritos from that machine next to you. At least I kicked that habit,” Jim said.

“Doritos don’t provide any nourishment. At least this is good for the soul.”

“Says you. Hugs and money don’t mix.”

The man shrugged. “I can think of worse ways to spend your money.”

So could Jim. Junk food. Cigarettes. Beer. Crap that he just didn’t need. He wanted to be home in his wife’s arms, but she would be asleep by now, and there wouldn’t be time for anything but a quick hug and kiss before they ran off to their jobs in the morning. He couldn’t very well ask his coworkers for hugs, could he?

Jim handed the man the dollar. The man got up and hugged him. He reminded Jim of his father, dead seven years ago. Jim had gone through a quadruple bypass two years ago, and they were working him to death even now. But he needed the job. He had a daughter getting ready to go to college, and she was good enough to make it to the Ivy League.

He felt better. Enough to wrap up the program review and go home.

“Take care, Jim,” the man said as he sat back down.

“What’s your name?” Jim asked.

He shook his head. “I’m not allowed to say.”

“You’ve got one, haven’t you?”

“It’s our business code of ethics. No relationship with the customers. Otherwise, there’s a conflict of interest.”

Jim felt like he’d just put clothes he hated to wear. “Well, we can’t have that.”

“Don’t work too late. I’ll be here if you need me.”

Jim just walked away. Time to break another habit. And get another job.

This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt “Vending Wishes.” I tried to think of the weirdest, most non-toxic vending machine I could think of. This wound up being far more creepy than just buying beer, a pony, or something else that people buy.

Photo credit: “Receive Change Below” by Kenyaboy7 at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license


Take Off the Mask

Posted: May 24, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , ,

solar flare

Everywhere on the planet, people were getting back on their feet. They cried. They hugged their loved ones, and people they didn’t even know. The deadly solar flare was swept away.

Tears ran down Marcus’ face but not from joy. His friend Elena, the one everyone else called Nova, floated back down to Earth, coming to rest in front of him. “Take off the mask,” he said.

“What, no ‘thank you’? I just saved the world,” she said.

He shook her head. “No mask. To me you’re still Elena.”

She laughed. Either she was trying to sound like a big shot and was lying, or she felt like one and was wrong.

“Fine,” she said. Marcus blinked as she peeled back the mask that covered her face. First he saw the world washed out by light, then it faded down to normal. Elena looked like herself. He could feel the power underneath her skin. She grinned at him. “How does this work for you?”

“You almost destroyed the Earth. How could you do that, Elena?”

She folded her arms. “It was a chance I had to take. The solar flare killed the alien swarm.”

“You almost died. What if you couldn’t control it?”

“I did control it!” She radiated anger. Her eyes flared.

He dared to hold her shoulders. Carefully. He’d seen her throw people a dozen yards with a flick of her fingers. “The Elena I knew wouldn’t have taken a risk like that.”

People who saw her coming down out of the sky had finally found where they were standing. Elena pulled her mask on again. A crowd gathered around them. People pointed at her suit. Some applauded. Others started taking pictures and videos.

“Please, take the mask off.”

“It’s for your protection, not mine.”

“Are you sure about that? Now that you’re looking at the bigger picture?”

Elena gently pushed his arms away from her. She started to float away. “You don’t know what I’m capable of. No one does.”

Marcus nodded. “That’s why I’m scared… Nova.”

Elena touched the mask. Using her powers, she could have reached through her gloves and the mask and touched her face, skin to skin, but she didn’t want to use her powers. She didn’t like the look on Marcus’s face. She thought she liked the adoration she was seeing on everyone else’s faces too much.

She could feel radio transmissions buzzing through her head. The government was coming. Behind that, she could feel echoes from the alien hive. Others like them had heard the swarm’s death cries. Elena wanted to feel the sun on her skin, and not feel like a goddess from it, just to be sure she was still Elena. But she didn’t have time now.

When does the work come first? Are people scared when you show them how strong you really are? Who makes the call how far is too far?

This scene originally started with Marcus and Elena as Miranda and Marcus. About halfway through I realized that the male superhero and his “only human” girlfriend was a bit of a cliche, so I put the shoe on the other foot. Elena knows how strong she is, but she’s starting to see that it’s not just about what she can do.

Photo credit: The Christian Science Monitor, “How a Solar Flare Could Send Us Back to the Stone Age”